Having adored Keith Stuart’s debut novel A Boy Made of Blocks which I reviewed here and which made it onto my list of favourite books of 2017 here, I was thrilled to be invited by Clara Diaz to help celebrate the launch of Keith’s second book, Days of Wonder.
Days of Wonder will be published by Sphere, part of the Little Brown publishing group, on 7th June 2018 and is available for purchase through the links here.
Days of Wonder
Magical, heartbreaking, beautiful – Days of Wonder reminds us that stories have the power to save lives.
Tom, single father to Hannah, is the manager of a tiny local theatre. On the same day each year, he and its colourful cast of part-time actors have staged a fantastical production just for his little girl, a moment of magic to make her childhood unforgettable.
But there is another reason behind these annual shows: the very first production followed Hannah’s diagnosis with a heart condition that both of them know will end her life early. And now, with Hannah a funny, tough girl of fifteen on the brink of adulthood, that time is coming.
With the theatre under threat of closure, Hannah and Tom have more than one fight on their hands to stop the stories ending. But maybe, just maybe, one final day of magic might just save them both.
A tale about growing up, the beauty of a special bond between father and daughter, and finding magic in everyday life, Days of Wonder is the most moving novel you’ll read all year.
My Review of Days of Wonder
Hannah has a heart condition and she and Dad Tom need to come to terms with life as it is.
Now, I’m going to be completely honest. I don’t think Days of Wonder will be everyone’s cup of tea and I think some readers will find it slightly too sentimental – a bit like an old black and white movie. For me, however, it was a complete and utter joy to read. It touched me heart and soul and I loved it. And, after all, fairy tales play a vital role in this story so no wonder I thought it was a magical read.
Days of Wonder is such a cleverly structured book. As well as being a straightforward narrative about a girl, Hannah, and her father, Tom, it is a multi-layered allegorical tale in which the theatrical metaphor is beautifully handled and consistent throughout. It’s not just that the plot revolves around Hannah’s illness and her and her father’s link to Willow Tree Theatre, but that Keith Stuart illustrates perfectly how, just like actors, we have different roles and personas that we present to the world and how we can sometimes delude and convince ourselves far better than we can those witnessing our performance. He writes with such insight and compassion that I had to put my life on hold until I had read every word.
I love Keith Stuart’s style. His dialogue is natural and the way in which the Hannah and Tom’s narrative voices speak directly to the reader had me hooked from the first word to the last. I thought the title, Days of Wonder, was a superlative choice. We all need our ‘days of wonder’ and Keith Stuart illustrates this will incredible skill, so that I can honestly say reading Days of Wonder has actually changed me as an individual and I am approaching life differently as a result of reading this magical book.
I loved every character, especially Margaret and even those like Phil, because they felt so vivid and real. Whilst Hannah is the joint protagonist, it was Tom who appealed to me most. He’s hapless, flawed and so convincing as a father, struggling to do his best and not always being successful. I thought the balance of power in his relationship with daughter Hannah was perfectly poised so that I felt more like a fly on the wall in their home than a reader reading a book.
Enormous credit must also be given to Keith Stuart for the way he has tackled the emotive subject of heart conditions and their treatment with such skill, knowledge and humanity. The reader has no idea how much of a happy ending there might be for Hannah and this is what makes Days of Wonder all the more fabulous. Despite the fact that Hannah could face death at any moment, there’s such humour in the book too. I laughed, but certainly I cried quite a bit more. Reading Days of Wonder gave a kind of poignant ache in my heart and I found it a wonderful read.
I don’t feel I’ve done justice to Days of Wonder. I want to be eloquent in saying how wonderful a read it is but I’m finding it hard to convey what a glorious, uplifting and delightful book this is. Days of Wonder will bring you joy and break your heart. It certainly did for me.
About Keith Stuart
In 2012 one of Keith Stuart’s two sons was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The ramifications felt huge. But then Keith and both boys started playing videogames together – especially Minecraft. Keith had always played games and, since 1995, has been writing about them, first for specialist magazines like Edge and PC Gamer then, for the last ten years, as games editor for the Guardian. The powerful creative sharing as a family and the blossoming of communication that followed informed his debut novel, A Boy Made of Blocks.
You can follow Keith onTwitter @keefstuart.
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